At Google I/O 2018, Google CEO, Sundar Pichai gave a demonstration of Google Duplex booking a haircut appointment via an astonishingly realistic telephone conversation.
What with the unrelenting progress and advances of technology it can be hard to be impressed these days when we have robotic dogs that can run and cars that can drive themselves. But Google's demonstration of their Google Assistant holding a telephone call in such a realistic manner as to be imperceptible from an actual human being was nothing short of remarkable.
In the demonstration the Google Assistant calls a hair salon to book an appointment and is able to handle the call perfectly, with spot-on timing and responses to the member of staff at the salon. The Google Assistant even uses speech disfluencies such as "erm" and "um" to make the call even more realistic.
In the next example the Google Assistant calls a restaurant to book a table and the call was even more complex as the staff member has a strong accent and the line was poor. I even struggled to follow the conversation at times, but the Google Assistant took it in its stride and was able to "think" quickly and ask if the restaurant would be busy at the time it wished to book, as it was not able to book a table for under 5 guests.
Google CEO, Sundar Pichai revealed that the Google Duplex technology has been in development for many years and they intend on rolling out Google Duplex in the coming weeks and months and see its potential beyond just booking your haircut or meal out via Google Assistant but also making calls on behalf of Google to small businesses to find out their holiday hours and then updating Google's business listings with that information thereby saving small businesses from repeated calls from customers to check if they are open or when they are closing.
Despite the outstanding technical accomplishment Google Duplex has not had an entirely warm reception, some argue that a technology that allows computers to so realistically mimic a real human phone call is deceiving, and maybe they have a point.
But undeniably Google Duplex has amazing potential, consider how it could revolutionise call centres where it might be able to handle a lot of the more routine calls from customers and the improvement in speed of call handling as it would eliminate the human-computer interaction of the operator. But perhaps, at least for now, the investment in AI to achieve this for a single company would be too great but no doubt that will change as Google commodifies the technology.
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